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BTU Value Propane Vs. Fuel Oil

Cheryl Munson

It's common to see big blue or white tanks in the yards of properties and on farmland while you're driving along a country road. In most cases, those tanks contain propane. People in remote areas have been using propane for quite a while. Today, a growing number of city folks are beginning to convert to propane for everything from heating to outdoor cooking and fueling their cars. The way to figure out whether a switch over is right for you is to pull out your bills, calculate your BTU usage, and do a cost comparison. Then you'll have a better understanding of the value of propane, and whether it makes sense to make a switch.

Propane vs. Home Heating Oil

Heat is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs).

One gallon of grade 2 home heating oil (which is the most commonly used grade), contains 138,690 BTUs. Therefore, in comparison to the 91,333 BTUs in 1 gallon of propane, home heating fuel contains 34 percent more BTUs per gallon. This information can be used to compare costs for heating a home with oil fuel versus propane. However, keep in mind that you must also factor the cost per gallon of home heating fuel to the cost per gallon of propane in your area for an accurate comparison.

Propane vs. Automobile Gasoline

Propane is growing in usage for fueling fleets of automobiles and for personal automobiles. In some cities, taxis are fueled by propane. One gallon of gasoline contains 124,238 BTUs. While that's more than 26 percent more BTUs than propane, the difference can be entirely different when you compare the cost of a gallon of propane to the cost for a gallon of gasoline. For example, if gasoline is $4.00 per gallon, and propane is only $2.00 per gallon, the price of the propane is half the price of gas, which makes a substantial difference in what you would pay at the pump, and more or less makes the difference in BTUs inconsequential.

Propane vs. Diesel

Diesel contains the same number of BTUs per gallon as home heating fuel: 138,690. Therefore, diesel also contains 34 percent more BTUs per gallon in comparison to propane. Once again, to accurately compare the value, you must factor in the difference in cost for one gallon of propane (which is typically much less) to a gallon of diesel fuel. For example, if diesel is $6.00 per gallon, and propane is $2.00, the difference in cost is quite substantial, and makes propane far more economical. That is why many auto and truck fleet owners are starting to fuel their vehicles with propane.

Calculating the Cost Difference

Do a cost comparison to see if you can increase your savings by converting to propane. Gather your energy bills from the last heating season when the weather was the coldest. Review your bills to find out how many BTUs of energy you used. Add up the total amount of gallons you used for heating oil or propane. Finally, compare the money you spent to the latest costs for both oil and propane to see whether a switch might be worth considering to save money on your heating costs.